Quite the kerfuffle (isn't that a great word?) last week when Sony announced the abbreviationating (my word, folks!) of some of their 30 and 60 minute back catalog into 5-minute "Minisodes" as they will be called. (Read the New York Times story for more details.)
Some call this "bastardization." Others have called it "sacrilege" and "the degradation of an art form."
I call it "smart business." And "the search for a new audience with withered attention span." And "making bullion out of gold dust."
Make no mistake about it folks, this is not the desecration of the glorious medium of television. It ain't Playhouse 90 or the collected works of Rod Serling we're talking about; it's old episodes of fluff like Charlie's Angels and T.J. Hooker, which one can argue were five minute shows stretchted to 60 in their original incarnation.
Years ago, in a presentation I had to make representing Airborne at a wireless conference, I made a prediction about mobile video, saying that "Scenes will be more important than stories." To be immodest but blunt, I was right on.
As a guy who's always rallied against "amortizing" media assets for the computer and mobile screen, I gotta admit that this shrewd optimization plan is the first one that works. 'Cuz this has about as much to do with the shows as the t-shirts, lunchboxes and action figures that are licensed from them. These are derived products made to make money; five-minutes of new-medium filler that happens to have TV stars in it.
Screw art. This is a dance to the bank.
In a world where snacks are sold as calorie counts (check out the myriad 100-Calorie packs of chips, cookies and other junk food), where pop songs are being sliced-and-diced to fit more of 'em into a radio hour, and where even venerable Hasbro has scaled back its rules of engagement to come with 20-minute "Express" versions of games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Sorry, it was only a matter of time before the media companies separate the wheat from the chaff and sell their content not on its artistic merits, but as a way to kill a small increment of time.
The medium is indeed the message.